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WCC students to Simon: College has changed lives 

The Aurora Beacon-News
June 23, 2012
By Erika Wurst

AURORA — Students from Waubonsee Community College’s new downtown Aurora campus greeted Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon with tales of the important role the college has played in their lives.

Simon was in Aurora Friday to get a first-hand look at the downtown campus, which opened a year ago.

Administrators got Simon up to speed on some of the college’s newest and most innovative programs and degrees, ranging from Sign Language medical interpreting to small-business development classes.

Simon said that throughout the state there are at least 140,000 jobs that need filling, but that employers are having a hard time finding qualified workers.

“They would like to hire someone, but they can’t find someone to meet that niche,” she said, stressing the importance of WCC’s commitment to job and career training.

Students like Maria Holguin know how important it is to have 21st century skills. With two kids in college, Holguin decided to go back to school herself after losing her job to the poor economy. She initially just wanted to complete an English as a Second Language program, but fell in love with medical interpreting while she was on the downtown WCC campus.

“I came to Waubonsee and I found open doors,” she said.

For Eva Aguirre, it was wanting to provide a good example to her kids that brought her to the college. “I want them to think, ‘Mommy can do it. It’s never to late to succeed,’’’ she said. “I wanted to be a nurse for a long time, and now I want to show my family and myself that I can do it.”

The students sat around a large table, sharing their stories with Simon.

Students from Thailand and Mexico are in Aurora learning English, important work skills, and skills they need to succeed in the job market.

“I love your stories and what you’re all working toward,” Simon told the group.

She said she was proud of their ability to command a second language, and to go back to school despite hardships they may face.

LaKwae Htoo, 25, said he came to the United States from Thailand seven years ago. Since then, he has spent his time well, attending college at Waubonsee — where, he said, his confidence to communicate grows every day.

“I came here by myself without my parents, but now I have a plan for my future,” he said. “In my country you have to spend a lot of money on education ... ”

But at Waubonsee, where he is finishing up ESL summer classes, Htoo’s opportunities are endless.

“I’m so happy to be here,” he said.